Earlier this week I made the choice to comment on a discussion thread in a Facebook group. That simple comment led to a massive assumption about me that ended up reflecting more poorly on the perpetrator than on me, as intended.
Here’s how it went down:
Lead Comment: Working weddings is the same as pre-COVID. No masks.
Me: That’s so unfortunate. Safety of everyone should be a top priority at all weddings and events.
Another commenter: Many would argue nothing was unsafe before.
Me: I think the 200,000 people who have died and their families who are left behind would disagree.
Commenter: Yikes! Let’s not get political. Stepping away.
Me: Nothing I said was political. Simply a statement of fact about public health.
And then the assumptions and attack came in a series of multiple posts the most important for the purpose of this discussion is:
If it’s not political, how do I know you are a Democrat simply because you are upset about masks?
Now I could have chosen to respond to this message with a defense of my beliefs, correcting (or affirming) the commenter about my political affiliations or simply pointing out all the reasons I think I am right in what I said and they are wrong.
However, to what end? All that would do is give the fire more fuel.
This person exhibited the behavior of a troll and trolls want two things:
- To be heard
- To be the loudest
Knowing this is a matter of emotional intelligence, a subject I have been actively studying and researching to better understand. My years of working in public relations and crisis management overran my knee-jerk emotional response, which I encourage everyone to exercise when it comes to handling an online communication that clearly has gone off the rails, and I responded with the following:
I will happily have a conversation with you about this offline but I will not sit here and be attacked via social media. My politics have nothing to do with this. My statement was about keeping safety of the guests at an event at the forefront, something that should be done at all times.
The Insulted Party
In this situation “know you’re a Democrat” was thrown at me in a way that came across as an insult, but here’s the thing:
If caring about another human and the overall state of our public health makes me a Democrat, you are saying those things are inherently NOT Republican. Given that definition, which is the real insulted party?
This snap judgement of me only served to reflect poorly on the person who hurled it at me like an accusation.
This type of online exchange is one that happens multiple times a day on social media and will likely only increase as we near November 3. The sad fact is that as these assumptions and judgements are made, they only will further divide us as a society, which is the exact opposite of what needs to happen.
Clarity on Where I Stand
So let me take this opportunity to make it abundantly clear where I stand on the issues that truly matter in my perspective.
I am fiscally conservative. I work very hard to build my business and believe others should do they same if they want similar financial freedoms in their lives.
I also believe that there are barriers for different socioeconomic statuses and racial prejudices preventing some from accessing the opportunities to which I have been able to pursue.
I believe in strong defense and fully support our men and women in uniform.
I also believe in diplomacy as the first option in all disagreements (political, business and life.)
I believe science is real. (I cannot believe I have to say that.)
I believe women should make decisions about their own bodies.
I also believe that medical intervention should not be used as a form of birth control or excuse to not pause for less than 60 seconds to be safe.
I believe love is love and everyone is entitled to have theirs recognized, and the privileges that come with it, in the eyes of the law.
I believe we can do better. I believe humans on the whole are basically good.
I believe our fears of the unknown and different have led to hate, which manifests in harmful and destructive ways.
I believe those who break the law should be held accountable for their actions. If I am going to hold a four-year-old accountable for a negative action, say hitting another child, by having a conversation and time out, then you better believe I am going to hold an adult accountable.
I do not believe the path forward is crystal clear. Education and research is key. I do it everyday and would hope/encourage/pray that you do as well. (Politicians, scientists, and voters alike. )
Doing the Next Right Thing
I believe we must learn from the past so we don’t repeat the same mistakes in the future. Again, remember the lessons we teach our children; lessons that we as adults become disconnected from as our brains mature, which in itself is an oxymoron.
Combating hate with more anger, hate or resentment is counterintuitive. In order to put out a fire, you must diffuse the tension. Going back to the original Facebook exchange, the second I offered to take the conversation offline all inflamed speech stopped and calmer heads prevailed across the board with successive comments.
We must not add fuel to the fire. We must quell our internal emotional reaction and let a calmer head reign. Yes, this is hard. Really, really hard most of the time. My desire to be “right” and defend my true beliefs (not the snap judgement of them) in that moment was very strong and my dogs heard all kinds of not nice things I said in the privacy of my office.
That is 100% natural, but it is also NOT the way forward. So I walked away. I let my PR brain kick in and I proceeded forward as I would advise a client to do so and the results speak for themselves.
We need to confront the fire with water, not more fire. This is your opportunity to exercise some emotional intelligence by showing you understand why someone is so enraged/hurtful/angry/judgmental and responding more effectively.
High-energy situations diffuse faster and become more productive when we listen, digest and discuss.
Remain calm when faced with anger and judgement. It won’t survive. That’s not how our brains are wired. And even if by some chance it does, who’s the one that will really walk away from that with a harsher judgement and less peace in their heart/soul/mind?
Be clear and level in your tone and LISTEN. Don’t just hear, but rather truly listen.
I care about our society. I know I can only control my own actions and decisions moving forward. My lack of outwardly displayed anger, even righteous anger, does not mean I care any less about any of the issues we are currently dealing with.
I am simply choosing to approach it in a way that has proven to be more productive both in my life and as evidence in endless amounts of scientific research into how the brain processes emotions, which I have been eyeballs deep in for a long time.
Statements start online but meaningful conversations happen offline. Keep having the meaningful ones.